4 Scriptural Promises that Speak the Language of Anxiety and Depression

Ray Of Light Forest Trees Sunlight Sun Sunbeam

The specter of mental health in this century is driving us all a little nuts.

I have a heart for those who deal with anxiety and depression. Having taught in public school systems for five years, I’ve seen it up close, including some particularly conducive environments. And, really, a look around at the world will reveal it readily. In these last days, these darknesses have closed in ever more tightly – though, as they say, the night is darkest just before the dawn.

God’s steadfast love manifests in some promises that speak the language of anxiety and depression.

1. “I do not condemn you for this.”

Therefore, no condemnation now exists for those in Christ Jesus. (Romans 8:1)

Many Christians are under the impression that depression is a sin, a failure to adequately read (or believe) Scripture. They rebuke the anxious and depressed accordingly.

I don’t count myself in this camp. Anxiety and depression can stem from a place of spiritual ignorance (how depressing our future would be indeed without the hope of God!). But they can also be chemical, seasonal, hormonal, the product of spiritual warfare, or simply the soul’s response to tragedy. I know people whose depression clears up merely upon drinking caffeine, or changing one’s lifestyle or thought patterns.

More importantly, condemnation of the mentally beleaguered forgets the work of the cross. If actual sins like extramarital sex, drug addiction, and murder cannot block God’s forgiveness for the repentant, then anxiety and depression most certainly cannot. They are instead candidates for God’s compassion – as are we all.

2. “I’m happy to reassure you as often as you need.”

Because of the Lord’s faithful love we do not perish, for His mercies never end. They are new every morning; great is Your faithfulness! (Lamentations 3:22-23)

One hallmark of anxiety and depression is seeking frequent reassurance of love – even from those who are closest and most loyal. Ever felt like you’re always vaguely “in trouble” somehow? Ever seen a friend act distant because of who knows what and assumed the problem is you, that you upset them with some little offhand word or action and they’re just too polite to tell you? Anxiety brings this stuff in spades.

I have friends with severe anxiety, and it’s amazing to watch their spouses. They know their mates’ needs, and they’ll “check in” emotionally with them on a regular basis. During a long church function, they won’t let a couple hours pass without giving them the attention they need to reassure them that everything is still okay. Though knowing they can’t be God to their spouses, they offer what they can. They don’t groan, roll their eyes, or tell their struggling spouses to buck up. They took “in sickness and in health” seriously. (Singles, are you preparing your hearts for this level of uncomplaining devotion?)

Well, it’s not like God will be outdone in compassion by a human. He, too, overflows. He is not stingy, doling out a little love here and there, expecting it to tide us over for weeks and then chiding us when we long for more. Nothing in Scripture suggests that sort of thing. He welcomes a daily dependence on him, promotes it, encourages it. If he gets frustrated over anything, it’s that we don’t depend on him, that we do try the weeks-long independence thing and wind up dry and desolate!

No, God loves to check in with us. His words of love are written down in black and white, available with the simple turning of a page; the sunshine, oxygen, and moisture in the atmosphere do not run out; and he tells us to be filled with his Spirit, a regular activity like eating or drinking. He is not embarrassed or annoyed that we seek him again and again; he is delighted. And responsive.

3. “My power and strength are available to you.”

I pray that He may grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with power in the inner man through His Spirit, and that the Messiah may dwell in your hearts through faith. I pray that you, being rooted and firmly established in love, may be able to comprehend with all the saints what is the length and width, height and depth of God’s love, and to know the Messiah’s love that surpasses knowledge, so you may be filled with all the fullness of God. (Ephesians 3:16-19)

What more needs said? Life with anxiety and depression need not be a weary, half-conscious stumble. Instead, it can be a valiant fight. God has made so much available – not just through practical strategies but from the very armories of heaven. No matter our progress, the choice is clear. Fight – God is on your side.

4. “You will get a new mind one day.”

He will wipe away every tear from their eyes. Death will no longer exist; grief, crying, and pain will exist no longer, because the previous things have passed away. (Revelation 21:4)

Imagine the moment we see God and receive our glorified bodies. New minds will come with them.

Imagine the incessant weight of sadness lifted, falling from our souls like useless scales, never to burden us again. Imagine constant lightness of heart, for no reason other than God always wanted it for us. No more chronic, racing overthinking, or endless suspicion, or that corner of your soul that perpetually waits for the other shoe to drop. Every corner of our soul now conquered and owned and healed fully by God.

Until then, it’s a war. No doubt about it. But the war will end. For the Christian, God has planned an entirely new body and mind, and nothing can avert his work. It will be yours. In the meantime, I’m praying for you, and rooting for you.

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

5 Encouragements for the Long Road to Finding “Your People”

Silhouette Friends Happy People SunsetIt took me a while to find “my people”.

Returning home after the Air Force, I found friendmaking difficult. I’m far from a natural.

First I tried the church’s college group. Never really fit in. Then I latched onto a Bible study of older singles. They were good people but had grown up with more money, and therefore with hobbies and pastimes I struggled to get into. Regardless of where I turned, I found myself on many D-lists.

And just when I was finally starting to feel at home, God called me away on a four-year mission. I still traveled back and forth, but building friendships in that situation is constrained.

Honestly, those were lonely and confusing years.

It’s part of life. I don’t hold grudges; not everyone will like you, or needs to. And honestly, there are people I’ve regrettably put on my D-list.

Eventually, God turned things around. At this point I’d say I have found “my people”.

I tell this story because I know other believers in the same boat, and I want them encouraged. It can be a long trail to finding “your people”, the ones God gives us to share the steep or muddy stretches with, beyond the randomness of a small group. Our band of brothers, our caravan, the human-shaped blessings who “get” us and are healthy for us.

You think you’ve found them (high school); you lose them (college); you have to find new ones (adulting). I didn’t start gaining altitude again until about age twenty-five, and even then, the climb was barely perceptible.

But God was in it. He never leaves our side.

A few thoughts if you’re in the valley now.

 

1. Forgive.

It does no good to hold grudges towards those who didn’t connect with you. It only cuts you off from both God and others. Most of the people who politely turn down your friendship mean no harm, intend no ill messages, and wish you the best. Wish them back.

 

2. Ignore the messages.

Isolation will lie to you. Satan is quite happy to exploit such seasons with messages that blind you to your identity in Christ, messages of worthlessness and self-doubt. Fight that poison tooth and nail. Get into Scripture and find the antidotes. You are God’s.

 

3. Don’t settle.

I am 1) an introvert and 2) picky when it comes to people. It’s hard to regret these qualities, because they drastically cut down on the drama quotient in your life. But they can make friend-finding a longer process.

But 2) is Scripturally mandated. “Do not be deceived: ‘Bad company ruins good morals'” (1 Cor. 15:33). “Whoever walks with the wise becomes wise, but the companion of fools will suffer harm” (Proverbs 13:20). Like dating, the temptation to just go along with those who “get” you, even if they’re not wise companions, is real.

Don’t settle. The wait is worth it.

 

4. Enjoy those you do find.

Sometimes our squad sneaks up on us. I was sometimes so focused on one person or group that I didn’t immediately notice the one or two loyal, interesting, high-character types that God was picking off each cluster for me. This is great. Trust me. They’re now my best mates, even from states or countries away. Relish them to the fullest.

 

5. Don’t give up.

God sometimes sends us on roundabout journeys to even his purposes (and we know life certainly isn’t accommodating). Don’t give up. You have not been abandoned. You’re not hopeless. You’re not globally incompatible.

Keep hitting your knees in prayer. Good things are coming!

 

I’m glad you tuned in today. If you found this post to be of value, please feel free to share it on social media. Thanks a bunch!

It’s Never Too Late to Come Back

waitingI have regrets.

So I cannot approach you with judgment in my heart.

Instead, I can relay this story.

‘I’ll get up, go to my father, and say to him, Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son. Make me like one of your hired hands.  So he got up and went to his father. But while the son was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. He ran, threw his arms around his neck, and kissed him. The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and in your sight. I’m no longer worthy to be called your son.’

“But the father told his slaves, ‘Quick! Bring out the best robe and put it on him; put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet.  Then bring the fattened calf and slaughter it, and let’s celebrate with a feast, because this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found!’ So they began to celebrate. (Luke 15:18-24)

Take in the gladness of this moment. The father doesn’t sit down forbiddingly, list his son’s errors one by one, or even let him finish his apology. He runs to him. You can see a weight lifted off his shoulders, months (years?) spent grieving over his son’s absence, perhaps waiting with dread for news of his death, evaporating in an instant. His relief and delight are unrestrained, bountiful, fierce.

And when the older brother would bring up the returner’s past (could we insert your own experience with bad churches here?), he is gently rebuked – and invited into the celebration.

But he replied to his father, ‘Look, I have been slaving many years for you, and I have never disobeyed your orders, yet you never gave me a young goat so I could celebrate with my friends.  But when this son of yours came, who has devoured your assets with prostitutes, you slaughtered the fattened calf for him.’

“‘Son,’ he said to him, ‘you are always with me, and everything I have is yours. But we had to celebrate and rejoice, because this brother of yours was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’” (v. 29-31)

May God spare me from being the older brother. If I ever have, I repent of it. For Jesus also crafted whole stories to rebuke such a heart (read Matthew 18:23-35 for that), to shield the returning from the condemnation of those already at home.

Instead, may I be an older brother who invites you home. Who marshals the servants. Who helps find the robe, unshelf the ring, dust off the sandals, grill the steaks, and lead the household in a toast of gratitude.

This Father waits for you as well.

What if there is only relief and reconciliation waiting on the other side of admitting our past to God? What if God has decreed that no black record can restrain his love?

Test the story. Come home to God today and find rest for your soul.

When You Sin Seven Times in a Day

Hotel Summer Pool Infinity Luxury Sea Sky WaterI came across an article of John Piper’s in which he listed five besetting sins with which he struggles.

I chuckled bitterly. If only my list were that short.

Not that Piper claimed only five besetting sins, but I don’t even know how he could tier them. Mine certainly don’t lend themselves to stratification. They cling. They bite at my heels. They relentlessly pursue, like a dog who will not yield the chase, or the zombie who knows nothing but the taste of living blood.

I’m not rolling over, mind you. On some fronts, I’m winning more skirmishes than I’m losing.

But something in my heart refuses such encouragement. Total eradication is the goal. If I content myself with less, I will accomplish less.

And there are days in which I do indeed accomplish much less. Days that seem dominated, marked, headlined by sin.

Then, this evening, I read these words of Jesus to his disciples:

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Encouragement After Falling Into Sin

Though a righteous person falls seven times, he will get up, but the wicked will stumble into ruin. (Proverbs 24:16)

For the Christian who longs to please God (and thus demonstrates that God has indwelt their conscience), it is discouraging and heartbreaking to fall into sin.

Satan throws gasoline onto the flame of our frustration, saying that not only have we disappointed our God, but we will never do any better. He tempts us, gets us to cooperate with his agenda by committing sin, then turns around and shames us for it. A vicious one-two punch. Indeed, the Hebrew word “Satan” carries the meaning “accuser”.

Fortunately, we belong to God, not him.

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Christianity Doesn’t Bring Shame. It Removes It.

“Although I left Christianity over 20 years ago, it took a long while for me to erase the doctrines that had been embedded within my consciousness for 15+ years. Learning how and why certain doctrines of the Christian faith (e.g., final judgment, burning fires of hell, Satan and his demons, the end-times) were introduced into the faith was extremely liberating … and removed a ton of guilt and fear.”

This individual* could be speaking for much of society.

14517262115_0b7dc7b411_oOur entertainment culture is embroiled in a race to paint Christianity as evil. And it’s got ammunition.

From Carrie to The Shape of Water, from Handmaid’s Tale to Family Guy, Christian faith is portrayed in modern media as a heartless and oppressive force in people’s lives, gone wild to the point of ostracizing, dehumanizing, handcuffing, and even killing in the name of God. Such excesses are so normative in TV and film, in fact, that I can’t remember the last time Hollywood filmed a church as a positive force, or even as a neutral one.

Yet there’s no doubt that such tragic systems have existed, and still do.

Some people have gone through it and escaped. Their testimonies poison our reputation. Christianity is seen as an agent of guilt, an imposer of shame that can only be removed by – I don’t know, what do they claim that churches are selling as a solution? Submitting to the system? Staying in church? Ceasing to dance or have fun? Accepting doctrine? It’s never really made clear.

Doctrine.

That horrifying, cringe-inducing, hateful, joy-sucking, monolithic wrecking ball of a word that so many have come to fear, that evokes structure and hate and frowny-faced elders in suspenders beating you upside the head with a Bible.

Doctrine actually tells a different story entirely.

Christianity is not a faith of guilt and fear, but of forgiveness, freedom and joy…and it is doctrine that tells us that.

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The Sin of Deflection

deflectionAnother year, another incorrect prediction of the world’s end.

I often wondered how these predictors interpret their constant misses, until I went on the internet and saw for myself.

They deflect.

Instead of acknowledging their error and apologizing to those they mislead, a lot of these people simply hide behind the sins (or perceived sins) of others. They accuse you of unbelief. They speak of the “mockers” and “scoffers” outside the kingdom who will get their “just reward” when Christ returns. As if any of this somehow ameliorates their own false prophecies. Deflecting.

A coworker responds to correction by pointing out how awful X and Y are at their jobs, and thus how unfair the criticism is. Deflecting.

Teachers spreading poor doctrine complain of being attacked. Deflecting.

Political candidates play down their own flaws and talk about those of their opponent. Deflecting.

And I?

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